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July 22, 2008

KOSsacks Force Paper To Pull Piece

Could you imagine the uproar if conservatives tried to get a mildly critical article pulled from a newspaper? Or is right-wing bloggers -- say Michelle Malkin, Powerline, or LGF -- and members of the Free Republic online community raised such a fuss about a piece that the editors of a newspaper or magazine felt obliged to not merely apologize, but also to pull the article in question from their online archives? You know, tried to shove it down the memory hole (here's the Google Cache -- when will it disappear?).

Well, that's what happened in loony-left Austin, Texas, in response to an article about the Krazy Kos Kiddies' annual confab.

The original article by the Statesman’s Patrick Beach knocked the nutrooters for the so-called “surprise” Gore visit, said it turned into a “faint-in,” and that their general feeling was “terribly self-confirming,” among other snippy comments… fun, but snippy. The general tone of the piece was that of amusement at how seriously the nutrooters took themselves. And, even more galling to said nutrooters, this story was the front page editorial of Sunday’s edition. (Original, Google cached version of Beach’s piece.)

This did not sit well with the nutrooters in question.

So, in the true spirit of “tolerance,” respect for “freedom of speech,” and an interest in a “free press,” the denizens of the DailyKos whipped themselves up into a frenzy of complaints. The din was so loud that the compliant folks at the Austin American-Statesman acquiesced to the demands for retribution. The Statesman pulled the piece from their website and made abject, groveling apologies to the folks at the DailyKos.

What did the paper have to say about the article in question?

Readers expect front-page stories to speak directly and clearly about events and issues. Eliminating the possibility of misunderstanding from our work is a critical part of our daily newsroom routine. When we communicate in a way that could be misinterpreted, we fail to meet our standards.

Our front-page story Sunday about the Netroots Nation convention included doses of irony and exaggeration. It made assertions (that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might find herself at home politically in Beijing, for example) and characterizations (”marauding liberals” was one) meant to amuse. For many readers, we failed.

In trying for a humorous take on the Netroots phenomenon without labeling it something other than a straightforward news story, we compromised our standards.

– Fred Zipp, editor

Translation


  1. This should have been labeled as commentary rather than straight news.

  2. Our editors did made poor editorial choices.

  3. Sometimes satirical commentary doesn't amuse its targets.

  4. All of this means we fell short of our standards.

Now I don't disagree with point one, or even point two -- especially because point two is pretty common in the Austin American Statesman. And as for number three, that is the very nature of satire. But point four is the big one that bothers me -- in the name of "upholding their standards, they are committing an even bigger violation of their standards and journalistic ethics -- they are covering up their own shortcomings and rewriting history by making the original article inaccessible. We wouldn't want folks to be able to look back and see the putative errors in judgment and journalistic shortfalls of the paper, would we? And we certainly wouldn't want folks to be able to look back and see if the criticisms and apologies are justified! After all, leaving the article in place would allow for both, and it might just expose that those who complained were working out of a narrow ideological agenda and those who caved-in were willing accomplices to censorship.

Perhaps even more shocking is the admission by Editor & Publisher commentator Greg Mitchell that he decided to do a "public service" by posting about it to his Kos Diary! Excuse me -- what ever happened to objective journalism? Daily Kos is a fever swamp of liberalism, every bit as extreme as the cesspool over at Democratic Underground. Would editors and publishers be as open to employing Freepers in their newsrooms and on their editorial staffs? So now we have a professional journalist setting himself up as "media commisar" on behalf of an extremist ideological group to make sure that offending pieces don't see the light of day -- or at least not for long. What next? Burning printing presses?

Anyway, as a public service, I'm not going to let the article go away so easily. So click below the fold to see what chief censor Greg Mitchell, the Krazy Kos Kiddies, and the Austin American Statesman don't want you to see. After all, it is only reasonable that the public have the capacity to be fully informed about the issues of the day -- and to determine whence the threat to freedom of the press really emanates.

Gore's surprise visit highlights Netroots conference
Former vice president speaks at Austin convention for liberal bloggers.

By Patrick Beach
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Name-dropping Al Gore and his call for a switch to clean, renewable energy within 10 years was enough to pull whoops of approval from the 2,000 or 3,000 marauding liberals gathered for Netroots Nation at the Austin Convention Center on Saturday morning.

So when the former vice president and Nobel Prize co-winner made a surprise -- and cleverly scripted -- appearance during U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's talk, it looked like the conference might turn into a faint-in.

Talk that Pelosi (who is arguably so left-leaning that her parenthetical should be D-Beijing) would have a Very Special Guest had been buzzing about the conference of liberal bloggers, pols and media types since it began Thursday (it concludes today). But it wasn't clear to attendees that something was afoot until a schedule change handed out Saturday morning indicated the speaker's talk would last 45 minutes longer than previously indicated.

Not that Gore's appearance was necessary to whip up the troops.

From the beginning, it was clear these people were convinced the electoral map would be repainted with a brush sopping with blue paint come November.

The believers will tell you it's morning, that they smell the napalm. And it smells like, oh, yes, victory.

It didn't seem to matter that the conservative and much smaller Defending the American Dream Summit -- featuring syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr -- was going on in Austin at the same time. That was miles from downtown, so there was little chance for a rumble.

With the current administration's low approval rating, a charismatic presumptive Democratic nominee and a Republican opponent some in the GOP have been reluctant to even air-kiss, the energy was palpable and, like the political blogosphere, terribly self-confirming.

They went to panels about how the presidential election would be won house by house, block by block. They staged mock media interviews and critiqued themselves, and showed films ("Crawford") and Internet videos ("Harry Potter and Dark Lord Waldemart"). They attended panels on the war, health care, online social networks, volunteer organizing and expanding the networking power of something called an "Internet."

There was even one panel Friday featuring Princeton economics professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (wearing, as if to galvanize stereotype, what appeared to be Birkenstocks) that was essentially about how the media weren't liberal enough.

As they say, only in Austin.

Filmmaker Paul Stekler, who teaches film production and politics at the University of Texas, said:"As you have greater democratization (through the use of technology to distribute one's message), you also have a greater degree of what's called confirmation bias. We live in a very different and weird world in terms of dissemination of information right now."

Indeed, you couldn't find anybody who disagreed that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were "two ignoramuses," a label hurled by Parag Mehta, the Democratic National Committee's director of training.

Big names? Got 'em. There was Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of the Daily Kos political blog, who hatched the idea a few years ago to get his like-minded pals together and who, in a Friday lunchtime keynote with Harold Ford Jr., chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, seemed amazed at what the notion had unleashed.

"We're going to keep growing; we're going to keep pushing for an unapologetic Democratic Party," Moulitsas said.

Then there was John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel who has made a second career of railing against what he considers right-wing excesses the way recovering alcoholics preach against strong drink.

"I have deep fear of my former tribe, and what they might do particularly in the law," Dean said, before going on to refer to former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani as "Richard Nixon on crystal meth."

It's plinking bass in a barrel to paint liberals as overly intellectual types incapable of having fun unless reading Noam Chomsky counts, and it sure does for them. And there were a handful of colorful characters, including some men from Cedar Creek who looked like bikers and represented the Warrior Wolf Society, which they described as "a group of pagan warriors with wolf totem spirit," and a guy in a Bush mask and clothing with prison stripes.

But for the most part, these were serious-minded people, and decorum prevailed.

When a few people had the temerity to shout at Pelosi and Gore, they got shushed as mercilessly as they would have at a Nanci Griffith concert.

The no fun thing? Maybe it's because, as Democrats, they're not used to having it.

The incredible imploding presidential campaigns of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were used as textbook examples of what not to do. As political ad man John Rowley put it, he's been in the business for 15 years and only the last two have been good in terms of the political tide. Still, he said, "We've got to get ready for the day when we're not swimming downstream."

In other words, what a pendulum does is swing. But technology is power, and the left has been quicker to adopt it. As Gore put it Saturday morning:

"You are at the cutting edge of a new era of history. You will look back many years from now and tell your grandchildren about coming here to Austin, Texas, and about the first two meetings of Netroots Nation, and you will tell them that this was the beginning of an effort that was the start to reclaim the integrity of American democracy."

That is exactly what Joe Trippi had in mind. It was the one-time Howard Dean campaign aide who saw, perhaps a little too early and a little too enthusiastically, the transformative power of the Web. As he walked from one place to another Friday afternoon, he got stopped every 20 feet or so by people who knew him or at least knew of his ideas. And this is what they had wrought; this is what he had predicted.

"It's amazing," Trippi said. "I knew it was going to happen, but I'm still blown away that it happened."

pbeach@statesman.com; 445-3603






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